Noting that current research has revealed a substantial gap between pupil assessment theory and the practices of secondary teachers, this study examined not only what teachers are doing, but also why they select and use certain practices. Assessment was observed in at least three classes for each of 13 selected secondary teachers, and descriptions of specific assessment practices were obtained through formal and informal interviews. School documents and teacher-developed assessment instruments were also examined in order to add depth to descriptions. The bulk of the data consisted of field notes from interviews and observations, which were analyzed qualitatively. Frequency indices were also prepared to allow easier viewing of patterns in the data. Ninety specific assessment practices were identified. Of the 90 total instances, 16% were preassessment, 30% were formative assessment, and 54% were summative assessment. Analysis of emergent themes indicated that teachers’ assessment practices were influenced by the effort and improvement of their students, and that teachers individualized their assessments. Teachers also identified conditions under which they used assessment including the determination of the purpose or utility of each technique as well as efficiency of administration.
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